April 28, 2021 3 min read
Before I took time away from freelancing to focus on my music series and upcoming exhibition, I worked for several years as a full time freelance illustrator. My specialty was custom heraldry and family crests. I created about 50 pieces each year for clients all over the world - yes, even some for famous people! Many of my favorite pieces were inspired by historical documents.
José E. López Reyes and I first connected in September of 2018 when he was looking for an artist to create an illustration of an over 200 year old image of the arms awarded by Spain to the garrison regiment that defended San Juan during the British siege of 1797. The only illustration in existence was scanned from Juan Manuel Zapatero's 1964 book "The Caribbean War in the 18th Century." The illustration only existed in black and white: the color version had been lost.
The original coat of arms of San Juan was granted by Spain in 1511: making it the oldest heraldic achievement still currently in use in the Americas. My illustration is similar to the official arms of Puerto Rico and the arms of the City of San Juan, but we intended this art to be a celebration of the history of San Juan, and as faithful as possible to the image of the garrison regiment arms painted sometime between 1798 and 1804. We researched and re-constructed a color version of the arms which I painted and shipped to him in 2018.
Several years have passed: José published his book and my illustration is on the cover! I traveled to Old San Juan and presented the original painting of the arms at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico where my artist's talk was video recorded: the presentation will be online soon.
My favorite parts of Puerto Rico were the people and the food. The masks that everyone wore didn't hide any smiles or friendliness! I had vegan mofongos every day. I loved listening to the the language and the excitement in the restaurants and shops.
I spent time with Jan D'Esopo, an artist and owner of the Gallery Inn in Old San Juan where we stayed. My husband and I enjoyed our suite in the eighteenth-century Spanish colonial inn and listened to piano music each night in the Cannon Club. We went to the rooftop deck where we could see the whole city around us: the fort, the ocean, and the rest of Puerto Rico in the distance. It was truly a weekend in a tropical paradise!
We explored Old San Juan, the fort, the castle, and also visited Casa Blanca, originally built for Juan Ponce de León in the 1500's. I saw the fort where the garrison regiment fought first the Dutch and then the British. My husband and I had so much fun exploring the beautiful city.
I’m thankful to José E. López Reyes, Interamerican University, Manuel Fernós Esq., Chancellor Dr. Marilina Wayland Lucca, Dr. Oscar Cruz, The Gallery Inn, Jan D’Esopo, and everyone else who has helped in this project and afforded my husband and I the opportunity to visit San Juan. I’m excited to send this illustration off to be enjoyed and I'm honored to help celebrate San Juan's history. I hope that my art helps its viewers more deeply connect with Puerto Rico's vibrant history.
See the book: San Juan 1797 Illustrated Compendium
More photos from my trip and history behind the art: coming soon.
No, I'm not taking commissions or doing custom work right now. But you can join my wait list here!
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